Complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) or complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) consists of therapies with proven or unproven results that many patients use to promote wellness and manage symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment. No matter what options you explore, it is essential to discuss any new treatments or practices you may be considering with your oncologist.
Complementary medicine includes treatments such as massage, acupuncture, therapeutic touch, biofeedback, prayer, guided imagery and nutritional supplements/diet changes. These techniques can help promote relaxation, reduce pain, nausea and stress, and create a general state of well-being – in conjunction with other therapies used to treat cancer.
Many people with cancer turn to complementary approaches in addition to medical treatment to help them deal with different aspects of the disease. As with all types of treatment for cancer, it is important to remember that what works for one person might not necessarily work for you. So if you are looking for a way to lower the stress in your life, or just pamper yourself, you might want to try something like yoga, tai chi, meditation, guided imagery or visualization. Or, you could find something you love to do and make it a regular part of your routine.
Alternative therapies are defined as those that are used instead of your conventional medical care. Some have been proven harmful but are still promoted as “cures”. If you choose these alternatives, they may reduce your chance of fighting cancer by delaying or replacing regular cancer treatment. Before changing your treatment or adding any of these methods, it is best to discuss your wishes and plans openly with your healthcare team. Some of these methods can be used safely, along with standard medical treatment; others can interfere with standard treatment or causes serious side effects. Many alternative medications and supplements have never been truly tested, and their exact effects are unknown. Most of these agents are not regulated by the federal government; the effects may vary among products. Despite their claims, it is important to note that none of these approaches cure cancer, but they might help with the reduction of side effects.
Questions to Answer Before Trying Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Experts suggests that you consider the following questions before you decide to use complementary or alternative treatments:
- What does your oncologist think about the therapies you are considering?
- Could the therapy counteract the effectiveness of my current treatment?
- Is the therapy being promoted to cure cancer or help standard treatment to work better?
- Is it to relieve symptoms or side effects?
- Are those who offer the treatment recognized experts in cancer treatment?
- Has research about the therapy been published in scientific journals?
- Is the therapy promoted only through mass media or also in scientific journals?
- Is the therapy expensive and will insurance cover the cost?